Drop a pebble in a pond…

As Catholics, we are to embrace the normative guidance of the Church as the guidance of Christ Himself. That which the Church advises for the faithful as safe norms for sanctity (and salvation) is to be embraced as nothing less (and nothing more) than Christ’s own guidance for us on His One Way to the Father. We are to let our Yes to the Lord be our Yes to His Body, and our No be No–to both.  

For, if we deign to “sift” the guidance of the Church as good here, optional there, or even evil and sacrilegious elsewhere, then we assume the role of judge and shepherd on our way along Christ’s Way to the Father. Further, if we grant that the Church can enjoin the faithful to that which is only doubtfully or optionally good, then her sanctity is only doubtfully or optionally certain. But of course, a doubtful authority is no authority. 

In turn, if we grant that the Church could instruct the faithful to practice, or even merely approve, that which is evil or sacrilegious, then we must grant that approving evil and sacrilege conforms to the will of God (i.e., the Way of Christ). It betrays a profound confusion of the Catholic faith to say that, because God “permits” numerous evils in the world, He therefore could permit the establishment of (equally?) numerous similar evils in the Church’s magisterium and worship as things which His elect should approve as guideposts along The Way of Christ. For it is precisely by the Church’s magisterium, sacraments, and communion that the evils of a fallen world are overcome and transformed into the greater glory of God for an ultimate good. But if the Church’s magisterium and worship are subject to the same immoral contrarieties and contradictions as that which characterize the fallen world, then we must ask not only how one could “navigate” the Church’s potentially innumerable errors and compromises with evil, but also why one should heed the Church any more than a worldly entity. 

As such, granting the Church’s infallibility in matters of worship and piety which necessarily safeguard the infallibility of faith and morals, does not entail granting thy her statutes and norms never possibly allow the faithful to perform evil or defect from otherwise perfect guidance. The Church’s liturgical and disciplinary infallibility is the supernatural analogue of the absolute cogency and authority of the natural law. Neither one contradict the other, and no faithful Catholic can pretend to flout either. 



About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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9 Responses to Drop a pebble in a pond…

  1. The Church at Jerusalem permitted Jewish converts to Christianity to continue observing Mosaic dietary laws. But it was infallibly declared at the Council of Florence that anyone observing such laws after Our Lord’s coming thereby forfeited eternal salvation. Ergo, the Church failed in her discipline 2,000 years ago.


  2. This is my point: trad objections are of the same form as liberal objections. Just because they occupy different areas in the cafeteria doesn’t mean they are any less picky “cafeteria Catholics”.

    In an earlier thread you asked about what canons explicitly enjoins to evil. Well, that’s really the point. If you don’t grant that V2 has enjoined the faithful to any evil things, then the (soi-disant traditionalist) faithful have ZERO BASIS for objecting to what V2 hath wrought and continues to yield.

    Oh sure, you’ll say that ambiguity is not binding–but the entire point is that such ambiguity is not only not binding but actually diabolical. Homoousios vs Homoiousious.

    So I return the question to you: What been taught or mandated that is evil or sacrilegious? If you say, Nothing, then you have no basis for traditionalist “resistance”. If on the hand you say that the Church has positively and normatively caved in on X and Y or whatever, then you must reject such compromises as coming from a source outside the saving power of Christ (, I.e, replay).

  3. Eliot, what you’re doing is following Lefebvrianism to its logical conclusion. I’ve been discussing this on the assumption that you realize that Lefebvrianism is not the extent of Catholic traditionalism. Now I’m beginning to suspect that you rather believe that everyone who is trying to rectify the matter from within the Church is “profoundly confused” – which, itself, is a Lefebvrianism. If you’ve located the weakness in Lefebvre’s argument, then, by all means, trace that weakness to its point of origin. But don’t assume that we’re all constrained to defend Lefebvre’s portrayal of the situation. Traditionalist criticisms of the New Mass, for example, have long since moved past mere “liturgical preference,” and yet have no need to attack it on grounds of validity or liceity, and certainly do not maintain that it is intrinsically evil. The matter of the actual grace conferred through the Mass, to name one such point of criticism, has been instrumental in the mind of more than one bishop in his giving active support to traditional Latin Mass groups in his diocese. Thus, I don’t see where you’re getting the idea that we can only legitimately object to that which is intrinsically evil – especially when so much of Catholic morality and Church legislation depends precisely upon the careful assessment of attenuating circumstances. Put another way, we needn’t prove that something is intrinsically evil in order to justifiably object to it. Put yet another way, we needn’t hold Vatican II to be evil in order to demand that it be clarified by the competent authorities in a manner congruent to Tradition.

  4. Further, if we grant that the Church can enjoin the faithful to that which is only doubtfully or optionally good, then her sanctity is only doubtfully or optionally certain.

    I don’t understand how this kind of inference would not require assuming some kind of tutiorism; it seems to be confusing the morally safe and the morally good. (It also seems to be conflating all the different ways in which a thing may be good. But it is possible for someone to hold that something may be at least good enough in one way, e.g., in object, but highly problematic in another, e.g., consequences or the kinds of intent with which it will under the circumstances be pursued; or that something may be good as in permissible but not at all good as in edifying. Not all of these will allow this kind of inference.)

  5. Tony Jokin says:


    I think you have reached a point where you are uncertain whether there is a problem anymore. So might as suggest, we take a look at a simple example. Lets take the principle that

    1) close association with those who hold to heresy is dangerous to the faithful.

    Any Catholic has good reason to think the above principle is true because

    a) You have this affirmed in Scripture
    b) You have this affirmed by Church fathers
    c) You have this affirmed by Popes before Vatican II

    Now if someone were to contradict this principle, whether it be a Pope or a simple lay Catholic, they are coming up with something that is dangerous to the faith. Such a principle is also not constrained to some particular history or geography. It is a true principle regarding human behavior.

    A Catholic who sees a problem with violating this principle is NOT being a cafeteria Catholic or pulling a Liberal variation. They are different from the cafeteria Catholic or Liberal Catholic because the principle is not something they judged to be true by themselves. NO, it was repeatedly judged true by those who went before them in the Catholic faith!!! To think that it is only now that humanity understands that the principle is false is absurd!

    In fact, the ironic thing is that no one today who is a non-Catholic would even accept this principle as false. They do not care much about violating the principle because they do not think that there is any such thing as heresy, or that we should feel that strongly about it. You will see in matters where they DO CARE, like an atheist who cares about evolution, would be pretty angry about not getting things right!

    So please see again that there is a problem. The existence of this problem is also proof that your interpretation of what it means for the Church to be infallible in regards to her laws is incorrect (or at the very least, missing some important caveats).

    I think that you have gone a tad too far inside an abstract argument that now you have forgotten the things you knew for sure.

  6. st athanasius3 says:

    Radical Catholic,

    Do you have the quote from Florence that states what you posted? The one quote I found does not seem to back what you posted.

    “It firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally.”

    Clearly, we are still able to practice good dietary practices. We just can’t place our hope or submit ourselves to them as being necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ cannot simply save us.

    I don’t think the Church at Jerusalem failed in discipline.

    I may be mixing things up a bit and would appreciate the correction if I am speaking of something you are not.

  7. st athanasius3 says:

    For the record…I wanted to finish the quote from Florence.

    “…It does not deny that from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.”

  8. Re: Radical Catholic

    Ergo, the Church failed in her discipline 2,000 years ago.

    I would have to say your premise is faulty because the historical contexts changed in the intervening centuries. In the time of the Apostles the Temple was still in place, and the rites of the Temple, a prefigurement of the Church, were still honored by the Apostles (including St. Paul, who returned to Jerusalem to fulfill a vow at the Temple).

    In the second, the Temple worship no longer existed, and the Rabbinical religion that did was an artificial construction that constituted false worship. Thus in the first circumstance the Christian Jews did observe the rites to the extent they were not sinful to, as it were, “bury the Synagogue with honor,” while in the second such observances were deadly to the soul. St. Augustine explains that in the time of the Apostles, the law of Moses was “dead, but not deadly.”(St. Augustine, ep. lxxxii)

    Thus the Church, far from failing in discipline, demonstrated a care of souls whose present apparent lack scandalizes the author of this blog.

  9. Just to clarify: The first comment in this thread was meant facetiously, i.e. I do not really believe that the Church failed in her discipline all those years ago. The point was that a faulty understanding of disciplinary infallibility and a narrow view of historical events could lead one to the erroneous conclude that the Church had already failed in her infancy. I apologize for any confusion my comment might have caused.

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